Levitation trick performed by street artists in Prague

Levitation or transvection, in the paranormal or religious context, is the claimed ability to raise a human body or other object into the air by mystical means.

While believed in some religious and New Age communities to occur due to supernatural, psychic, or "energetic" phenomena, there is no scientific evidence of levitation occurring. Alleged cases of levitation can usually be explained by natural causes such as trickery, illusion, and hallucination.[1][2][3][4][5]

Religious views

Various religions have claimed examples of levitation amongst their followers. This is generally used either as a demonstration of the validity or power of the religion,[6] or as evidence of the holiness or adherence to the religion of the particular levitator.



See also: Levitation of saints

"Demonic" levitation in Christianity




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Levitation by mediums

Colin Evans, who claimed spirits levitated him into the air, was exposed as a fraud.
Stanisława Tomczyk (left) and the magician William Marriott (right) who duplicated by natural means her trick of a glass beaker.

Many mediums have claimed to have levitated during séances, especially in the 19th century in Britain and America. Many have been shown to be frauds, using wires and stage magic tricks.[28] Daniel Dunglas Home, a prolific and well-documented levitator of himself and other objects, was said by spiritualists to levitate outside a window. Skeptics have disputed such claims.[29] The researchers Joseph McCabe and Trevor H. Hall exposed the "levitation" of Home as nothing more than him moving across a connecting ledge between two iron balconies.[30]

The magician Joseph Rinn gave a full account of fraudulent behavior observed in a séance of Eusapia Palladino and explained how her levitation trick had been performed. Milbourne Christopher summarized the exposure:

"Joseph F. Rinn and Warner C. Pyne, clad in black coveralls, had crawled into the dining room of Columbia professor Herbert G. Lord's house while a Palladino seance was in progress. Positioning themselves under the table, they saw the medium's foot strike a table leg to produce raps. As the table tilted to the right, due to pressure of her right hand on the surface, they saw her put her left foot under the left table leg. Pressing down on the tabletop with her left hand and up with her left foot under the table leg to form a clamp, she lifted her foot and "levitated" the table from the floor."[31]

The levitation trick of the medium Jack Webber was exposed by the magician Julien Proskauer. According to Proskauer he would use a telescopic reaching rod attached to a trumpet to levitate objects in the séance room.[32] The physicist Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe investigated the medium Kathleen Goligher at many sittings and concluded that no paranormal phenomena such as levitation had occurred with Goligher and stated he had found evidence of fraud. D'Albe had claimed the ectoplasm substance in the photographs of Goligher from her séances were made from muslin.[33][34][35][36]

In photography

A person photographed while bouncing may appear to be levitating. This optical illusion is used by religious groups and by spiritualist mediums, claiming that their meditation techniques allow them to levitate in the air. Usually telltale signs can be found in the photography indicating that the subject was in the act of bouncing, like blurry body parts, a flailing scarf, hair being suspended in the air, etc.[3]

Levitation in popular culture



TV shows

See also


  1. ^ Stein, Gordon (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal (2nd ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9781573920216.
  2. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. p. 198. ISBN 9780471272427. Levitation is the act of ascending into the air and floating in apparent defiance of gravity. Spiritual masters or fakirs are often depicted levitating. Some take the ability to levitate as a sign of blessedness. Others see levitation as a conjurer's trick. No one really levitates; they just appear to do so. Clever people can use illusion, "invisible string", and magnets to make things appear to levitate.
  3. ^ a b Nickell, Joe (2005). Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 177. ISBN 9780813191249. Some claims — of levitation, for instance — may be performed either as an illusion for an audience, as a magician's stage trick, or for the camera.
  4. ^ Smith, Jonathan C. (2010). Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit. Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781405181228.
  5. ^ a b Livingston, James D. (2011). Rising Force. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674061095. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b Schulberg, Lucille (1968). Historic India. New York: Time-Life Books. p. 94. ISBN 9780682244008.
  7. ^ "Matthew 14:22–33 KJV – And straightway Jesus constrained his". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  8. ^ *MacRory, Joseph (1910). "St. Mary of Egypt" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  9. ^ "St. Bessarion the Great, wonderworker of Egypt (466)". Holytrinityorthodox.com. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  10. ^ Catholic Online. "St. Bessarion – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online". Catholic.org. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  11. ^ Summers, Montague (2000). Witchcraft and Black Magic. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. p. 200. ISBN 0486411257.
  12. ^ "St. Catherine of Siena's Severed Head". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  13. ^ Egan, Jennifer (May 16, 1999). "The Shadow of the Millennium Women: Power Suffering". New York Times Archives. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  14. ^ Reda, Mario; Saco, Giuseppe (January 28, 2010). "Anorexia and the Holiness of Saint Catherine of Siena". Medievalists. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture vol. 8 Issue 1. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  15. ^ a b Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2001). Encyclopedia of the Strange, Mystical & Unexplained. New York: Gramercy Books. p. 327. ISBN 9780517162781.
  16. ^ a b Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2001). The Encyclopedia of Saints. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 1438130260.
  17. ^ Michell, John; Rickard, Bob (2000). Unexplained Phenomena: A Rough Guide Special (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1858285895.
  18. ^ Villari, Pasquale (2006). Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1417967501.
  19. ^ Zander, Valentine (1975). St. Seraphim of Sarov (3rd ed.). Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. pp. 79–81. ISBN 9780913836286.
  20. ^ Brunot, Amédée (2009). Mariam, la petite Arabe: soeur Marie de Jésus-Crucifié, 1846–1878, proclamée Bienheureuse le 13 novembre 1983 par Jean-Paul II. Paris: Salvator. ISBN 9782706706684.
  21. ^ "The Acts of Peter". www.earlychristianwritings.com.
  22. ^ Ahlgren, Gillian T.W. (1998). Teresa of Avila and the Politics of Sanctity. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. p. 21. ISBN 080148572X.
  23. ^ Roach, Marilynne K. (2002). The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege (1st ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 442. ISBN 9781589791329.
  24. ^ Christiansen, Jørgen (1999). The History of Mind Control: From Ancient Times Until Now. Valby: Turtledove Book Company. p. 25. ISBN 8798753703.
  25. ^ Sundermann, Werner (2009), "Mani, the founder of the religion of Manicheism in the 3rd century AD", Iranica, Sundermann
  26. ^ Hornblower, Simon (2012). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0199545568.
  27. ^ Bowker, John (2000). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 259, 567, 576. ISBN 019861053X.
  28. ^ Brandon, Ruth (1984). The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879752699.
  29. ^ Stein, Gordon (1993). The Sorcerer of Kings: The Case of Daniel Dunglas Home and William Crookes. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879758639.
  30. ^ Smith, F. B. (1 January 1986). "Review of The Enigma of Daniel Home: Medium or Fraud?; The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries; The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914". Victorian Studies. 29 (4): 613–614. JSTOR 3828547.
  31. ^ Christopher, Milbourne (1979). Search for the Soul (1st ed.). New York: Crowell. p. 47. ISBN 9780690017601.
  32. ^ Proskauer, Julien J. (1946). The Dead Do Not Talk. Harper & Brothers. p. 94.
  33. ^ Fournier a'Albe, Edmund Edward (1922). The Goligher Circle. J. M. Watkins. p. 37.
  34. ^ Franklyn, Julian (1935). A Survey of the Occult. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger. p. 383. ISBN 9780766130074.
  35. ^ Bechhofer Roberts, C. E. (1932). The Truth about Spiritualism. Kessinger Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 9781417981281.
  36. ^ Jolly, Martyn (2006). Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography (1st ed.). London: British Library. pp. 84–86. ISBN 9780712348997.

Further reading